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IAEA, ICAO to craft standards around air transport of radiopharmaceuticals for nuclear medicine

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | November 17, 2023
Molecular Imaging
The IAEA and ICAO will establish standards for safely flying radiopharmaceuticals to their intended destinations faster.
To make sure radiopharmaceuticals reach their intended destinations in time, the International Atomic Energy Agency will work with the International Civil Aviation Organization to speed up transportation by air while preserving safety measures for the handling and delivery of these resources.

Radiopharmaceuticals are often used in medical imaging diagnostics to pinpoint the presence of diseases, such as cancer, and are being more commonly used in treatments, leading to an increase in demand. But these substances are perishable due to the half-lives of their radioisotopes.

In a joint agreement, the IAEA and ICAO said they will develop and review relevant IAEA safety standards and will collect and use data to create shared best practices for global transport to ensure healthcare providers receive radiotracers on time.
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“The IAEA’s role in ensuring the safe transport of radioactive material by air is essential in the carriage of short-lived radiopharmaceuticals and other crucial radioactive materials,” said ICAO Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar in a statement.

The IAEA and ICAO will also work together to ensure providers and other stakeholders are properly educated and trained in handling and shipping these solutions, including for emergency preparedness. Additionally, they will also encourage radiation research and information exchange around radiation protection in civil engineering.

Worldwide, radiopharmaceutical companies are working to create more domestic supplies for radiopharmaceuticals to deliver them more locally and reduce the risk for radioisotope decay. In 2018, NorthStar became the first U.S. company to produce a domestic supply of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) in nearly 30 years, using neutron capture technology to irradiate and process Mo-98 targets, at the University of Missouri Research Reactor Center.

It recently completed construction and equipment installation at its facility in Beloit, Wisconsin, where it will produce Mo-99.

Companies like RLS Radiopharmacies, the only Joint Commission-accredited radiopharmacy network in the U.S., are also helping to reduce the risk through handling services. Last month, RLS announced that it has added radiopharmaceutical contract development and manufacturing (rCDMO) to address pipeline and supply chain issues that can delay transport and hinder production.

Additionally, to ensure providers are properly trained in the handling of these solutions, the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging and the Intersocietal Accreditation Committee (IAC) came out with a new Radiopharmaceutical Therapy accreditation program that verifies that providers are up-to-date in their approaches for performing nuclear imaging procedures and have the right equipment and facilities.

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